At the beginning of the seventh row, I read the name: “Gerard Van der Leun.” My name. Cut into the stone amongst a tally of the dead.
If you have an unusual name, there’s nothing that prepares you for seeing it in a list of the dead on a summer Sunday afternoon in Battery Park in 1975. I don’t really remember the feeling except to know that, for many long moments, I became chilled.
When that passed, I knew why my name was in the stone. I’d always known why, but I’d never known about the stone or the names cut into it.
“Gerard Van der Leun” was, of course, not me. He was someone else entirely. Someone who had been born, lived, and died before I was even conceived.
Gerard Van der Leun was my father’s middle brother. He was what my family had given to stop Fascism, Totalitarianism and Genocide in the Second World War. He was one of their three sons. He was dead before he was 22 years old. His body never recovered, the exact time and place of his death over the Atlantic, unknown.